24 12 2011

About the most festive thing I’ve done this year so far (besides putting a wreath on the Wagoneer) was making the trek to Frankenmuth to visit Bronner’s Christmas Wonderland.

I still don’t really understand Bronner’s, but that’s okay–I don’t think Bronner’s is the kind of place that is meant to be understood. It must be experienced.

Let yourself go. Become one with the madnes.

If you’ve never been, I can’t recommend it enough. It’s a descent into eight acres of holiday insanity. It’s like one of those over-the-top haunted houses, except they’re peddling Christmas spirit instead of fear. Also, it’s staffed entirely by Nice Old Church Ladies instead of creepy chainsaw-wielding meth addicts. Read the rest of this entry »


Time to be more like…Europe?

8 12 2011

When it comes to our myriad national issues, a bit of foreign perspective can be clarifying. Take British commentator Nile Gardiner’s recent piece at the Telegraph Blog. Gardiner sets his sights – and, one presumes, his charming accent – on economist, New York Times columnist, and deserving target Paul Krugman:

Krugman and US liberal elites remain firmly in denial on the debt question, stuck in a time warp even as most of the free world has moved on. If this crisis is not caused by borrowing that markets find unsustainable, then what is it caused by?

Their foolhardy solutions for the European economic crisis as well as their prescriptions for America’s financial mess – more government spending and of course borrowing – simply beggar belief.

Shepherded by Krugman and his wrongheaded colleagues, U.S. policymakers conspire to rob us of more and more of our economic freedom – all in the name of Keynesianism, a theory seemingly designed to provide cover for fiscal recklessness.

Other nations have avoided our mistakes. Liberalization efforts have increased economic freedom across the globe, from Hong Kong to New Zealand to Chile. Even parts of Europe are beginning to look more hospitable to business than the U.S., which slips a little lower on the Economic Freedom Index every year.

Recall that taxpayer-funded EV boondoggle Fisker Automotive decided to build cars in Finland, a nation long held up by the left as a model of social democracy done right. And while Boeing has been attacked by the National Labor Relations Board for trying to hire new, non-union employees, welfare-happy Denmark has made it easy to fire bad workers: their labor flexibility is now a major international selling point.

Yet Americans cling to the idea of capitalism even as America continues down the road to statism. We insist we live in a fundamentally capitalistic nation even as bank bailouts and green subsidy scandals lay bare Washington’s endemic cronyism. Our politicians make liberal use capitalistic rhetoric to justify destructive interventionism (“I’ve abandoned free-market principles to save the free-market system“). When it all goes wrong, is it any wonder that capitalism gets the blame?

The first step towards recovery is admitting that one has a problem. America needs to stop fretting about becoming Europe and recognize that, when it comes to unsustainable spending, sky-high debt, and destructive regulation, we already are Europe. In some respects, we’re actually worse.

Economic freedom is not the cause of our woes: we haven’t had economic freedom for years. The sooner we can acknowledge that truth, the sooner we can begin working towards real prosperity.

Labor’s dangerous delusion

6 12 2011

Frank Beckmann’s takedown of ex-SEIU President Andy Stern’s recent pro-China commentary should serve as a wake-up call to union members nationwide.

Stern’s sheer shamelessness in calling for a shift towards Chinese-style totalitarianism is shocking. After all, behind China’s whiz-bang exterior and explosive (if unsustainable) economic expansion lies a corrupt one-party state that quashes any serious opposition.

Don’t believe it? Just wait until abused Chinese workers try to stage their own Battle of the Overpass. They’ll disappear without a trace – except for their internal organs, which the Chinese government will dutifully harvest.

A totalitarian impulse necessarily underlies all calls to be more like China, as uncontested leadership is necessary to, in the words of economist Tom Friedman,  “authorize the right solutions.”

Union rank and file aren’t knowingly supporting that totalitarian impulse when they blindly back big labor initiatives (or so I hope). Instead, they continue to operate under the mistaken assumption that their leadership is acting responsibly.

But big labor, or at least its bloated executive class, has long been in bed with the forces of big government to the detriment of workers, management, and the economy as a whole. Unless Americans – including union workers – wise up fast, Stern’s command-and-control wishes might just come true.

Spend self-righteously with OccuBucks

3 12 2011

I received this rather special $1 bill in change last week:

Of course, the effect was diminished because someone printed it off-center. Tsk, tsk.

On top of the familiar banknote image is a diagram that purports to show the disparity of wealth in the United States; the bill is divided in half with red ink, with “Richest 400 Americans” on one side and “Bottom 150,000,000 Americans” on the other. The dollar had, evidently, been Occupied.

My first impulse was to roll my eyes at the politicization of our currency and laugh the whole effort off. I have it on good authority that the average One Percent never carries bills smaller than $100, so in all likelihood, most Occupy-stamped bills wind up in the cash register at the local corporate coffeehouse.

Really, though, turning the supposed “root of all evil” into a tool of propaganda is a clever idea. As much as I disagree with the aims of the Occupy movement, they have been very effective at propagating their message (I’m talking about it right now, after all). Moreover, subversion can be fun, and this is perfectly legal – the overprints don’t meet the criteria for currency defacement. There are several designs available for ready reproduction at OccupyGeorge.com. Some are factual, others are just snarky (“Future property of the 1%”).

This is a campaign that the greedy capitalists of the world can learn from. Imagine similar currency stamps highlighting how much top earners pay in income tax – or showing how much of every dollar is consumed by bloated government. $10 bills might note that 80 percent of the world’s population exists on less than $10 per day, putting many of the Occupiers uncomfortably near the ranks of the global One Percent.

The left does not have a monopoly on creativity, and there has never been a more crucial time for artistic supporters of the free market to make their voices heard. To win the war of ideas, we’re going to have to get innovative – and as the OccuBucks in circulation demonstrate, even the smallest of venues can communicate volumes.

Viewpoint: Reconstruct capitalism

1 12 2011

My letter to the Michigan Daily regarding the College Libertarian’s upcoming event, “The Morality of Capitalism: Where Capitalism Went Wrong” was published today.

An excerpt:

As we struggle to undo the lingering damage of the 2008 financial crisis, it isn’t difficult to understand why hundreds of thousands of people have taken their grievances to the streets. Something is clearly wrong with a system that rewards individual recklessness with bailouts while sticking those least able to pay with the bill.

But the problem is not capitalism itself. Rather, it is capitalism’s bastardized form — often called cronyism, state capitalism or corporatism — that is responsible for so many ills attributed to the free market. Left to their own devices, individuals acting in the free market work together to provide the goods and services that improve the lives of all, whether rich or poor. Yet the market mechanism, when corrupted, quickly and inevitably becomes a facilitator of unbridled greed.

You can check out the rest here.